PARIS (Reuters) - French former economy minister Emmanuel Macron joined the 2017 presidential election race on Wednesday, formally announcing that he was entering the contest as an independent candidate.

Macron, a 38-year old former investment banker, made his mark deregulating services including bus transport during a stint in Socialist President Francois Hollande's government. He has never held elected office.

His candidacy increases the number of contenders taking part in a two-round election where just two go through to the run-off in May. Opinion polls have so far suggested the most likely scenario is a duel between conservative Alain Juppe and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Andrew Callus)